Magic City Mix 2017


unnamed-3Studio Photography by Liesa Cole

Produced By Studio Goodlight // Photo Assistance: Stan Bedingfield

Associate Producer:  Allison Crotwell // Written by: Allison Crotwell // Editors: Ashlee Holden and Rosalind Fournier

Hair and make-up provided by Forecast Salon

Makeup: Ashley Bush // Hair: Tristan Cone, Ashley Bush, Brittany McNaughton and Mark Hyde

Wardrobe styling for Billy Halliday:  Mindi Shapiro, assisted by Brett Levine.

Art Director: Robin Colter

Fan operator: Tristan Cone // Butlery:  Mr. James Young

chelsey-whild1Chelsey Whild

The strength and intensity of Chelsey Whild’s vocals command your attention. When you hear her sing “What I Need,” it is clear the singer-songwriter is driven to create music by what she describes as, “ somewhat unsatisfiable need and desire to do it.”

That drive can be traced back to when Whild gave her first live performance in the sixth grade during which she played and sang Vanessa Carlton’s  “A Thousand Miles.”  Whild remembers her nerves during that first performance: “[I was] shaking like a leaf, I got through it. I’ll never forget that.” It was only two years later that she was writing and singing her own songs. The days of sixth grade jitters must be long gone because there is no sign of anything but confidence and talent in the young artist. Her soulful, honest lyrics are set to pop melodies with a just a hint of  rock ‘ n’ roll. Her sound is a perfect fit for fans of The Cranberries and Florence + Machine.

When describing her creative process, Whild explains that it’s different with each song, “Sometimes I start with lyrics, sometimes it’s a melody. If I’ m in that flow state where it’ s all just working, I try to sit down and ride that out as long as I can.” You can download her debut album Fire on iTunes.

skoolie2Skoolie Escobar

At the age of ten, Skoolie Escobar knew he was going to be a rapper, and the first person he told was his grandma. As Escobar recalls, “She didn’t know who Q-Tip or Phife were, but I told her, ‘I want to be like Biggie , and she was like, ‘ you can do it.’” From then on, Escobar was dedicated to his path. In his own words, by “high school, I was writing, putting out CD’s, doing my own production, and I was a battle rapper. The music was always in me.”

Talking to him and hearing his work, it is clear that music is still there. Escobar’s sound is hip-hop with a touch of R&B, and as he describes, “the perfect mix of righteousness and ratchet.” His cadence and flow punctuate each word, while simultaneously drawing it out to give the listener time to absorb his words. The result might remind some listeners to the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole. His first EP, You’re Welcome, is the project he is most proud of to date. It’s a project he and his team, “worked hard to make happen, with little or no money ”, and one that still brings Escobar a lot of pride. “It gained a lot of attention ”,  he reflects. That attention has continued, and touring last summer was a huge experience for the Bessemer hip-hop artist, who stated, “It felt great to be able to share my music with so many different people and so many cities ”.

When asked about the local music scene, Escobar was enthusiastic, “Renaissance is happening and it’s really good for the music culture in Birmingham.” Inspiring words from an artist who is somewhat of a Renaissance man himself, pulling inspiration from any and everything while working on his new music. Introduce yourself to his work and when you thank us, we will gladly say, “You’re Welcome.”

nerves-boddingtonNerves Baddington

Ryan Howell (vocals, guitar) describes Nerves Baddington as being, “born out of necessity.” Having hit a rough patch with substance abuse and a stint in jail, Howell knew that he had to refocus his energy to reinvigorate his passion for music. After reconnecting with long-time friend and bassist, Jim McNaughton, the two took their more than 20 years of experience of the Birmingham music scene and decided it was necessary to create something fresh.

Together with newcomer Cameron Johnson (drummer), Howell describes how the hip-hop trio “combines their different influences of hip-hop, live and punk music ” to create their unique sound that is reminiscent of current and past conscious rappers; bringing a beat to words with meaning. Nerves Baddington are contemporaries of Run the Jewels, Chance and Vince Staples and consider themselves students and fans of trailblazers like Outkast and NAS.

After the success of their music single, “Addict” they knew they were on to something. “What we are doing seems to be working particularly well here in Birmingham,” says Howell. “When you see our live show and listen to our record, it is two totally different experiences.” My advice is to own their sound and experience it live whenever possible.

The intensively talented group just finished recording their debut studio album, Dopamine Decoder Ring. Their new single “Let It Bang,” simply put, is badass.

love-moorebLove Moor

When you meet Love Moor, you are immediately captivated by her beauty and spirit. She radiates a freedom and energy that clearly permeates her work. This is witnessed from the beginning of each show. “It’s about energy”, she tells the audience, “ what I get from you – y’all get from me.” Within that energy is a range of emotion. Moor draws her inspiration from these emotions, she explains, “I usually sing because I’m feeling some type of way. Whether it be happy, sad, mad or whatever, the freedom in art is so beautiful.”

Her song “Counting Sheep” is an experience in itself. The lyrics are heavy, and her voice is stunning and smooth. That, combined with a genuine effortlessness, result in an ethereal, but exuberant experience.  Moor’s signature style is a blend of soul, hip-hop, R&B and with occasional undertones of island flavor. Her voice has the passion and grit that is reminicent of  Valerie June and Lauryn Hill with a little Erykah Badu thrown in for good measure.

Moor is currently working on a new EP titled Simp Girl that will be released through Loner-Dreamer Lover-Rebel next year. When asked about her creative process, Moor explains, “I don’t necessarily sit down and write, people will send me beats and the actual beat will make me feel something, and I’ll go at it on a freestyle type of level and then I go back and put some more love on it. Whatever is on my heart is what I go off of, because music is an outlet for me.”

She goes on to explain, “In this world we don’t necessarily have the freedoms we want or the platforms we need to feel free and music is my freedom.”

That freedom is what she shares with us, so set yourself free to the music, emotion and unique style of Love Moor.

balcony-viewBalcony View

James Chancellor Bridges, a solo artist who performs under the name Balcony View, has a penchant for collaboration and experimentation. The music Bridges creates is an experience; you feel the sound he creates. He describes his creative process as being “heavily informed by philosophical musings.” That process lends itself to create multi-layered tones that are best described as ethereal soundscapes and will not let trance fans down.

Bridges says his current project under record label Step Pepper Records, An Observation of Consciousness, is “heavily influenced by electronic drone music and, in an instrumental sense, tells the story of a human life from birth to death.” Always trying to challenge himself and his sound, Bridges reveals he is congruently working on a different project he describes as “ an acoustic-based project that’s more influenced by both western and eastern folk music and religious music.”

When Bridges performs live as Balcony View, the shows are “ usually heavily improvised” so that no set has been performed more than once. In addition to his music Bridges is writing a screenplay, working on a collection of short stories, and creating visual art.

early-jamesEarly James and the Latest

The music of Early James and the Latest leaves you feeling found, even when you never knew you were lost. With a sound so unexpected, it stops you dead in your tracks, helpless to do anything but listen.

The group’s founder, James Mullis, best describes their sound as a unique “ combination of blues, folk, and jazz.” Mullis explains his creative process as “ pretty straightforward”, but with Adrian Marmolejo on upright bass, songs like “Gravy Train ” expose the deep roots of their talent and the tang of their sound.

Blow by Blow tells the story of hard lessons learned and how they can haunt you. It is riveting to see Mullis get lost in it when he performs, and Marmolejo seals the deal with his unrivaled talent, playing his upright bass in a way that can’t be taught.

Mullis, an acoustic guitar player at heart, speaks fondly of his old ‘50s Kay Parlor style guitar and it seems to fit him just right. In fact, Mullis writes songs on its back. While he might be humble about his songwriting abilities, I would call inspiration like that anything but straightforward.

lady-legs-aLady Legs

Things are moving fast for Lady Legs; the band made a splash with their performance at this year’s SXSW, which was quickly followed by the release of their first EP Stay Late under local record label Communicating Vessels.

Their sound is a combination of heavy surf rock and grunge, with psych-rock influences. I highly suggest you  dive right in to listen to “I Don’t Care ”; a mesmerizing song full of heavy, satisfying instrumental range with lyrics that can take the weight. Fans of Link Wray, Real Estate and The Rolling Stones will find their sound to be an easy fit.

Band members John Sims (vocals, guitar), Grant Galtney (guitars, vocals), Seth Brown (bass, vocals) and Ellis Bernstein (drums) rock a live show, full of enthusiasm and energy. Their first studio album, Holy Heatwave, is set to debut this year. You can pre-order a limited edition vinyl of the album at their website ladylegsband.com.

billy-halliday-3Billy Halliday

Billy Halliday is the kind of person you meet only to realize that you have known him all your life. The conversation is passionate, exciting and engaging; you make plans before you depart to see each other again. That is what listening to his music is like – it ranges from intimate to upbeat with a disco, funk twist and he keeps you wanting more. It’s songs like “Pitchforks and Torches ” and “Turn It Up ” that make the singer-songwriter a stand out.

Halliday is excited about breaking into the Birmingham music scene. Since moving to the Magic City, the thirty-seven-year-old has been focused on preparing to record his debut album. With a catalog that boasts over 150 original songs, he faces the difficult task of narrowing down which songs he wants to record. “I’m attached to all of them in some way because I wrote them,” he says.

The crooner understands the power of music: “I want people to hear me sing and not be able to breathe; I think people are very desperate for moments of exhale and music can give that to you.”

john-and-katie-gaiserfVJ’s

The magic you experience as you see your favorite artist perform is not just from the talent onstage. There is passion behind the scenes that goes into creating the entire production, and the passion husband and wife duo–John and Katie Gaiser–have for their art is palpable.

As visual artists, John explains, “What we do is live art composition, using a combination of video editing, motion graphics and live compositing tools to create MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) interactive and sound reactive visualizations for music performances.” Katie adds, “Before shows we definitely do our homework, we collaborate with musicians and venues; every show is different.” If that sounds complicated, rest assure, experiencing their art is anything but that. They create an experience that is a real-time connection between sound and image.  When asked about what gives them inspiration, John credits MTV: “It’s all about growing up in the 80’s when videos were exciting,” he reflects. “When we work with a live band, we are providing a visual, interactive music video experience for the audience.”

About the local music scene, John remarks, “We are just really happy that we can be a part of Birmingham’s music scene with our events and [are] able to support other DJs and bands with our visuals.” Both John and Katie say local artists and venues, such as the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alys Stephens Center, and Engle Visual Arts Center are supportive of the visual art they create. They continue to produce audiovisual live shows including Neon Electric, House of 90z and Yacht Club in addition to producing their live show Neon Electric on Birmingham Mountain Radio.

heath-greenbwHeath Green and the Makeshifters

Heath Green and the Makeshifters is a band that is comfortable in their skin. They are aware of where they have been and confident about where they are going.

Band front man and lead vocalist Heath Green describes their creative process as, “Always organic; it involves everything around you. You start taking it in, whether or not you want to, and you become this device that translates thought, feeling, and sound with an idea or whole story. And you let it be what it is.”

The band has a bangin’ range that blends the sounds of soul, blues and real rock. Green’s gravelly voice has a fervent quality most would compare to Tom Waits, but I’m going with Joe Cocker.  “Ain’t Got God” is an easy standout on their new album that was recently released with Alive Natural Sound Records. It is hard not to get lost in the sound of Green’s vocals, but then you focus on the lyrics and hear how band members Jason Lucia (drums), Jody Nelson (guitar) and Greg Slamen (bass), tie it all together and you wonder if they sold their soul in exchange for that sound.   

These guys are no strangers to the Birmingham music with a killer local following. It is clear from their self-titled debut, Heath Green and the Makeshifters, that it is time to introduce their Magic City sound to the masses.

brad-lyonsBrad Lyons

Triple threat Brad Lyons is well-known locally as the radio show host of The Local Mash, some might not know he is a talented singer-songwriter and producer.

Lyon ’ s radio show, The Local Mash, is a Birmingham Mountain Radio show introducing listeners to the “best in Birmingham-based music ”, featuring songs and bringing in live guests for in-studio interviews. As a producer, musician and radio show host he is a conduit for the Magic City music scene. He brings it all together to make sure local musicians are “heard, [both] their musical voices and their voices as human beings.”

In addition to his radio show, Lyons is also producing the music of local artists Chelesy Whild (also featured in this issue), a full-length album for Corey North, as well as an EP for singer-songwriter Nathan Peek of the band Long Bony Arms. 

Though he is producing music for other musicians and featuring local talent on his show, his music is not to be missed. Lyons exudes intensity, and you can’t help but soak it up. His current album Ten Steps is a testament to his talent.

You can catch The Local Mash every Sunday night from 7-9 pm.

With so much happening in Birmingham ’ s always growing music scene, we are bummed we could not include all of the talent worth mentioning.  We are excited to be able to feature the artists this year that have been on the lips of the most seasoned professionals.  We are always trying to cover a broad spectrum of genres to represent the scope of the diverse Birmingham sound.  If you do not see your favorite local act, give us a shout.  We will be sure to consider them for next year. ‘Til then, we will see you on the flip side.

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